Breaking Bad

Season 1 Episode 4

Cancer Man

Aired Sunday 9:00 PM Feb 17, 2008 on AMC
out of 10
User Rating
410 votes

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Episode Summary

The DEA becomes suspicious of a new drug kingpin. Walt reveals that he has cancer to Marie and Hank. Elsewhere, Jesse visits his estranged family.

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  • Merely Nice, But with the Coolest Arson Scene in Recent History

    "Cancer Man" is the episode right in the middle of Breaking Bad's first

    season and these 50 minutes are really rather boring aside from some

    new character information and good dialogue. And don't expect any major

    twists in the plot: after Walt and Jesse have temporarily parted ways,

    both of them don't do much more than some talking with their respective

    families. With this, we meet Jesse's parents and younger brother for

    the first time, and see Skylar, Walt Marie, and Hank reacting to

    Walt informing them about his cancer.

    As the biggest focus is on the characters in this and the next episode,

    I've come to realize how unspectacular this show's lead characters were

    at this point. Once you've understood the basic mentality of them,

    there's not much new to find. Maybe it's that these couple of episodes

    in the middle of the season have a worse screenplay than the rest, yet

    I still think that the characters' normality can be counterproductive

    when the only things happening are conversations. However, this only

    attributes for some parts of "Cancer Man". There was a lot of stuff in

    this episode I found really entertaining, especially the satiric look

    Vince Gilligan took at Jesse's family. Another highlight was the scene

    before the opening credits that had the great Hank Schrader doing his

    job as a DEA agent and while doing so, unwittingly talking about Walt,

    whose product has got quite famous in Albuquerque's drug culture. And,

    of course, our two protagonists arguing in the Whites' yard was just


    Altogether though, "Cancer Man" is clearly not as good as the first two

    and the last two episodes of season one and next to Walt's

    (realistically impossible) bad-ass moment at the end, there really

    wasn't any big moment.moreless
  • Walters family help him deal with his cancer.

    In this episode Walter reveals to everyone that he has lung cancer and Walter has difficulty knowing what to do next We also get to see Jesse's family and how he is having difficulty with his family when he gets kicked out again but not everything is how it looks because there is no perfect family The episode ended well with Walter feeling good about destroying the car of the man who has been annoying him for days.moreless
  • Things slow down a bit as Walt faces his family knowing about his cancer and Jesse faces his own family

    There was a lot of family drama going on in this episode, and it's not that I don't have a problem with family drama.. but it's undeniably slower compared to the previous three episodes. But all that matters is how the episode does on its own, and it certainly achieves a lot for there not actually being much action or tension. Instead, we get Walt telling his family that he has cancer and seeing how they react to that information. Meanwhile, we see an entirely different side of Jesse, proving not only that he's not just a throwaway supporting character but that he's just as important to the show as Walt is. It's apparent that Jesse was part of a strict family that had high expectations for him and that all went south when he got involved with drugs. The little scenes we do see with his family prove a.) that Jesse still does have love for his family and that b.) he's not just a drug addict without an education.. he clearly is intelligent and is willing to sacrifice the way his family perceives him to keep his brother pure.

    I thought the only throwaway scene here (and trust me, there's barely any of these in the show) was the one where Hank takes Walt Jr. to see Wendy the prostitute. Of course, having seen the show already, I know that Wendy will come back throughout the show, but her introduction here felt shoehorned in, and I feel as if the scene between Walt Jr and Hank would've worked somewhere else besides this episode.

    But otherwise, we get some great moments between Walt and everybody else and Jesse and his family.. and every single time that Walt and Jesse are on screen with each other, the episode ignites. They have a relationship with each other like father and son, despite the times they argue, and for me, this was a sign that Jesse was just as vital a part of the show as Walt.moreless
  • 104

    Another slow paced episode of Breaking Bad, but it was an entertaining installment. The thing that I felt that was missing was the climax, all the other episodes have been slow paced, but in the last 15 minutes, we get one of the most intense scenes on television.

    This episode didn't really have much of that, it was just an entertaining watch that brought us development. Although for a season as short as this one, I'm not sure that's what this show needed, but regardless, it was entertaining.

    So this episode was the aftermath of Skylar finding out that Walt has cancer, they see a very expensive doctor and then he destroys some jerk's car in the very end. Not that eventful on Walt's front. Jesse's plot definitely stole the show here. Getting to know is family was very intriguing.

    Plus we got definitely a surprising ending. With his brother being perfect, and then Jesse's parents kicking him out for possession of drugs, but truly he just covered for his little brother. I loved the dynamic between the two brothers. Excited to see the next episode, hopefully Jesse & Walt get more interactions. Good slow burning episode.moreless
  • You know...

    Even though some people may think that this show is slowly getting to be a tired, action-less boring drama, then think again. Even in a reasonably slower paced episode we get to learn more about how Walt and Skyler met, and Walter Jr. getting scared out of "doing marijuana" are still well written and engaging stories. Even Jesse visiting a hooker friend of his to cope with the stress of his unsteady partnership with Walt ends. Even though both vowed never to see each other again, the audience knows the truth, but the ability to continue to surprise us and keep us on edge about what's happening is one of the main reasons Breaking Bad is so good.moreless
Kyle Bornheimer

Kyle Bornheimer

Phoning Costumer

Guest Star

Ben Petry

Ben Petry

Jake Pinkman

Guest Star

Jon Kristian Moore

Jon Kristian Moore

DEA Agent

Guest Star

Michael Bofshever

Michael Bofshever

Mr. Pinkman

Recurring Role

David House

David House

Dr. Delcavoli

Recurring Role

Charles Baker

Charles Baker

Skinny Pete

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (0)

  • QUOTES (1)

  • NOTES (2)

    • Original International Air Dates:
      Czech Republic: February 4, 2011 on Nova Cinema

    • Featured Music:

      "Etienne de Silhouette" by Black Feather
      "Fly" by The Pack
      "Baby Girl, I'm A Blur" by Say Anything
      "String Quartet in D Major, Op. 64, No. 5, 'The Lark'" by Franz Joseph Haydn
      "Didn't I" by Darondo


    • Hank: "Hey, Sky, you got anymore chicken? Emeril here is gonna need a fresh pack. Bam!"
      Emeril is a chef with his own television series, Emeril Live. He is famously known for saying, "Bam!" when he is cooking.

    • Hank: This dude's like The Jeffersons- movin' on up.
      He is referring to the television show, The Jeffersons. The theme song to the show repeats the phrase, "Movin' on up" to describe the family's ascent to wealthy living.

    • Title:

      The episode's title alludes to The X-Files character The Smoking Man (C.G.B. Spender) who was often referred to as Cancer Man by Agent Mulder. Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan served as an executive producer on The X-Files and also wrote 30 episodes for the series.